By Gareth Vaughan Jones
Welsh win away at Hammers
The Welsh kick off was fielded well by Hammers, who got the ball to an outstanding runner, Morgan. The tackle training we have been working on was not put in to practice as Welsh waved Morgan through for the first unconverted score 5-0. From the restart Welsh were much more competitive and worked the ball upfield. If anything we were a bit high going into contact and were stripped of the ball on more than one occasion. On one such turnover ball Hammersmith drove the ball aggressively and straight through the middle of the park, before releasing the ball to their star player, who broke away to score under the posts for a 12-0 lead. Body language on the trudge back to half way was very negative. This looked like it could be a long morning. Louis realised a mismatch in pace against and offered to be substituted for someone quicker, but the Argentinian ref blew for “half time”.
A quick shuffle of the deck and the second starting XV took to the pitch. After linking together a number of attacking phases of play, Welsh forced a knock on set for an attacking scrum in the 22. Conraj picked the ball from the base and drove over with H&F players trailing in his wake. Tom H converted for 12-7 and it was game on.
Heads were up and body language became much more positive. Early nerves were set aside and the Dragon began to breathe fire. Outstanding handling, shipping the ball wide at pace led to Mauro diving over to level the scores, and with Tom’s second successful conversion Welsh were in front 12-14.
Hammersmith and Fulham showed that they had taken well the introduction of the lineout this year. They played a driving maul, a quick pass off the top and a peel from the front allowing their forwards to punch into the defensive line. But little by little, the Jamie Joseph school of tackling: feet close, hand to the outside knee started to come good and we held the line.
In contrast the Welsh line out was less organised (better coaching required methinks!), but our scrum was dominant. From one attacking scrum in our own half Noah shipped the ball to Tom, then Ben R yeah of whom stood the defenders up attacking their inside shoulders. This allowed Nico to run a beautiful line onto Ben’s pass. Scruff in close support on the wing gave the Hammers defender too much to think about allowing Nico to touch down. With the third successful conversion London Welsh went more than a score in front 12-21.
Hammersmith were less than pleased, but far from letting their heads drop, they relentlessly pounded the Dragons defence. Good quick ball led to a line break on half way and once the full back was beaten it looked a certain try under the posts. Conraj had other ideas and chased down the speedy Hammersmith winger. Sensing him getting closer the Hammers back looked behind him and swerved to try to shake Con off. Neither gave any quarter and as Con attempted the tackle both smashed into the thankfully padded post. The ferocity of the impact led to the ref calling “half time”. Nobody saw whether the ball had been successfully grounded, so the ref did not award the try.
At the restart Ben B put in a beautifully lofted and positioned drop kick which Tom H caught on the run to give Welsh possession in the final third. Repeated drives drew a penalty from Hammersmith which Welsh took quickly and playing to our handling strengths put Tom H over for a try. Fin L dropped the conversion for 12-28.
Hammersmith responded well, and with another peel off their lineout broke the defence for 17-28. The play became very aggressive with some hard tackles going in from both sides. Good pressure from Welsh forwards in response led to a turnover in the H&F half and switching from tight play to spreading it along the line through Tom, Zac and Owen put Sacha in at the corner, 17-33.
Hammersmith lineout versus London Welsh scrum: the latter leading to a sixth try for Welsh, scored by Ben B at 10. But Hammersmith soon broke through for their fifth try. However at 29-38 and time running out there seemed to be only one winner. Welsh again showed their outstanding handling with Nico rounding off the morning with a last try for a final score of 29-43 (the less said about Owen’s attempt a a drop kick conversion the better!).